Today, in response to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) by the Center for Public Representation, Alabama Disability Advocacy Program (ADAP), The Arc, and other disability rights advocates, the state of Alabama has withdrawn its discriminatory ventilator rationing policy and instructed hospitals across the state that they cannot discriminate against people with disabilities in accessing treatment. The previous policy placed the lives of disabled adults and children at serious risk, in violation of federal law, by ordering hospitals to “not offer mechanical ventilator support for patients” with certain intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
After receiving the complaint, OCR took swift action to reach a resolution. With today’s announcement, OCR has made clear to Alabama and states and hospitals across the country that excluding people with disabilities from access to life-saving treatment is illegal and intolerable. In addition to withdrawing the discriminatory policies, Alabama has put in place new Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) Guidelines that contain important non-discrimination provisions. The new Guidelines do not, however, address how ventilators will be rationed in the event it becomes necessary to do so.